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June 25, 2013
Coast Guard proposes annual ballast water reports

Under a U.S. Coast Guard proposal, vessels with ballast tanks would be required to provide the Coast Guard with an annual report on their ballast water management (BWM) practices when the vessel operates exclusively between ports within a single captain of the port (COTP) zone. 

Currently, the Coast Guard does not collect BWM information on this segment of the maritime population.  A COTP zone is a predefined area, usually comprising multiple ports and U.S. waterways, in which a Coast Guard officer oversees compliance with regulations.  By making the proposed change, the Coast Guard says it will be able to obtain a better understanding of the BWM practices to control invasive species in vessels that were previously exempt from reporting.

3-year requirement

Under the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, as amended by the National Invasive Species Act of 1996, the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Coast Guard, must ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that aquatic nuisance species are not discharged from vessels into waters of the U.S. 

The Coast Guard says it is proposing a streamlined approach to the BWM reporting requirement, with “minimal burden to the public.”  The annual report would be required for a 3-year period.  The first report would be due no later than March 31 of the first full year following publication of the rule and would cover the previous calendar year.  For example, if the rule publishes in 2013, the first report would be due no later than March 31, 2015, and would report on the vessel’s ballasting practices for the calendar year ending December 31, 2014.  The third final report would be due no later than March 31, 2017, and would cover the 2016 calendar.

24-hour requirement

The Coast Guard is also proposing to amend the time frame within which vessels are now required to submit reports on BWM.  Current regulations require that these reports be submitted 24 hours before arrival; in other words, ballast operations must be predicted.  The National Ballast Information Clearinghouse (NBIC) estimates that 40 percent of the amended reports it receives are amended because of the early submission requirement; in other words, owners and operators revise their reports with the actual ballasting information and resubmit them to the NBIC. 

The Coast Guard estimates than an average of 10,717 reports are amended and resubmitted every year due to the timing of submissions.  Allowing reports to be submitted after arrival at the port or place of destination would greatly reduce the need for amended reports. 

This provision would not apply to vessels bound for the Great Lakes or the Hudson River, north of the George Washington Bridge from outside of the Exclusive Economic Zone.  Due to additional compliance monitoring for these vessels, reports will still need to be submitted 24 hours before their arrival even if the proposal is made final.

Other parts of the proposal would facilitate compliance by aligning federal recordkeeping requirements with international practices to the greatest extent practicable;  improving efficiency in data handling by changing the reporting format; and encouraging electronic report submission.

The proposal was published in the June 5, 2013, FR

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